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Why we should let rewilding be wild and biodiverse

Genes, Luísa, Svenning, Jens-Christian, Pires, Alexandra S., Fernandez, Fernando A. S.
Biodiversity and conservation 2019 v.28 no.5 pp. 1285-1289
biodiversity, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, ecosystems, ethics, motivation, risk, socioeconomics
Rewilding has been intensely debated among conservationists and ecologists. Multiple definitions and conceptual frameworks have been proposed for rewilding programmes, but hitherto all with a focus on promoting biodiversity conservation via restoration of ecological processes. Recently, however, it has been proposed to instead focus rewilding on the promotion of self-sustaining provisioning of preferred ecosystem services. Such shift in focus comes with an increased risk that rewilding efforts could be designed towards the promotion of simplified ecosystems providing selected ecosystem services, despite negative effects on biodiversity, as well as considerable socio-economic risks and ethical problems. We argue that rewilding should keep its focus on promoting biodiversity, with provisioning of other ecosystem services being integrated in the design of rewilding projects only as co-benefits. If such services become the main motivation for rewilding projects, there is a risk of misinterpretations and rewilding promoting less diverse ecosystems.